Dear Uncle Ervin,

bigstock-Brass-Town-Hall-Sign-On-A-Door-1960540 An article at, by Mike “Mish” Shedlock entitled Want to Get on the Disability Gravy Train?  There’s an App For That printed a letter from a reader:

Hi Mish,

I have a niece and nephew in their early thirties.  Both are perfectly healthy.  They have a son bigstock-Happy-Family-24684179with a slight learning disability.  The mom got him on disability and then applied for funds to take care of him and got it.  Her husband, an Afghanistan vet in supply never saw a moment’s action.  He worked at a desk.  When he came home he applied for disability claiming Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and got on disability.  The wife then applied for money to take care of him.  She got it.  They are also on a long list of other entitlements like welfare.

They bought a new house a little over a year ago and a month ago they both went out and bought two brand new cars!  She actually brags about playing the system.

I have no doubt there are hundreds of thousands or millions doing the same thing.  Needless to say it boils my blood.


If I could be so bold, I would like to interject myself into this communication … I would like to say:

Dear Uncle Ervin,  bigstock-Fraud-22749755

Your letter reveals an astonishing array of facts that, if true, indicate you have important personal knowledge of someone committing fraud ongoingly.

While your letter never mentions Social Security disability, but just “disability,” if it is Social Security disability, Social Security’s Office of Inspector General would like to hear from you.   The hyperlink I have provided, takes you to the relevant page on how you can report the alleged, ongoing fraudulent activity.

Social Security’s Office of Inspector General makes reporting such potentially fraudulent actions easy, safe, and secure.   You can reach them online, by telephone, mail, or by fax.   For your convenience I have provided the relevant numbers:

U.S. Mail:  
Social Security Fraud Hotline
PO Box 17785
Baltimore, Maryland  21235

(800) 269-0271 – 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
*If you do not reach an attendant, please call (800) 772-1213, which is Social Security’s general number.  Tell the attendant there your information, and it will be relayed to the Office of Inspector General.

(410) 597-0118

You may report allegedly fraudulent activities anonymously, however if you choose to remain anonymous, please give very complete information because an investigator would not be able to contact you for further or clearer information should they need it.

Whether you remain anonymous or not, your report and identity will be kept confidential upon your request.

It is understandable that this boils your blood, but it is bigstock-Crime-watch-zone-18522968important that you do more than simply write an email to a columnist at

Social Security disability benefits are extremely important for those who need them.  When these programs are abused it is a very serious matter.

I strongly urge that you do not remain in collusion with your niece and nephew, and that you report their alleged fraud to the proper authorities.

Thank you for being a concerned citizen!

With respect,

But wait … just one more thing … ….

Uncle Ervin’s letter is pretty breezy on the details.   It refers vaguely to “disability,” but doesn’t mention which disability program – Social Security?  VA?   It references an unnamed state’s programs for supporting caregivers of disabled people.   It mentions new houses and cars, but there’s no mention of how long it took to receive “disability.”   Was it years?   It normally takes years and years and years.

bigstock-Match-Box-with-used-matches-am-21975974The letter is an unpleasant confusion, but does reliably set sparks to the tinderbox.  The letter does serve that purpose well.

Uncle Ervin, I would like you to know that what I learn about my clients while representing them in a disability matter is quite intimate.   I learn some embarrassing facts about my clients.

I’ve had friends ask me to represent them, but  I always refer them to another attorney.   I want my friends and family members to be able to retain their privacy, their dignity.  I want them to be able to present to me their public face and public self revealing to me what they want of their mental and physical failings on their own terms.

This may be what you are seeing in your niece and nephew – what they carefully present to family – especially extended family.   Bragging about “playing the system” might be cover for some humiliating tidbits they do not run out at the family reunion.

When people tell me of folks they “know” are committing fraud, I give the information they need to report the activity.   These are important programs and they do need watchdogging.   Granted.

Mostly, the person backpedals, declining actually to report the matter presumably because they know in their heart of hearts they don’t know what they’re talking about.   Reporting is not mere gossip that makes you feel as if you’re in the know about the complexities of other people’s lives.

Established journalists, columnists, and bloggers receive lots of correspondence from people – naysayers and yaysayers alike.  Printing such correspondence, when it serves merely to shore bigstock-Nerd-Expressing-Doubt-20661956up stereotypic thinking, and ignite anger, but doesn’t offer anything worthwhile … hmmm.

It does fill space.  I will give you that.



9 thoughts on “Dear Uncle Ervin,

  1. Anonymous

    Never heard before that you can get welfare along with disability from various sources such as SS and the VA for a household.

    In the future, I wouldn’t even give these blogger trolls acknowledgement. They made their names writing about the economy during the crash when a fifth grader could have told you housing was a bubble. And now with the economy rebounding and Bernanke making them look like idiots, they’ve turned to picking on the disabled to keep their fringe conservative element fed. They gotta have something to do while they sit in the their bunkers and watch their gold investment go to hell.

    1. disabilitydunktank Post author

      Thanks for commenting. Much appreciated!

      The reason I address these types of excited utterances from bloggers is that I believe what they say just becomes becomes part of the rhetoric, part of the zeitgeist. And eventually policy gets made out of it.

      Uncle Ervin-type writing is accepted as truth by a lot of folks. In the words of Jon Stewart, ‘most folks are just raising kids and mowing lawns,’ and they’re not completely paying attention, and so they passively take this stuff in, and uncountered by anything that gives a different perspective – a common sense different perspective … it just becomes the unchallenged truth.

      One of my purposes with the Dunk Tank is to keep addressing these things … so … I apologize in advance!

      Another purpose of mine is to help the extremely busy attorneys and judges and Social Security employees who try to defend their work, but also are too darn busy to counter the misinformation … they can use here whatever might be helpful … or send people to the Dunk Tank or whatever.

  2. Laura S.

    Speaking of things that make people’s blood boil – want know what makes my blood boil? Absurdity. Let’s flip the coin here for a moment, Uncle Ervin. Let’s talk about some of the shenanigans the Government pulls in order to deny legitimate claims. Let’s pick a fun one: “cherry-picking” the medical evidence. Cherry-picking = “half truth.” Cherry-picking a record is basically when the Govt only references “parts” of the record – but not all of the record – to show limitation “A”. In other words, “the patient smiled appropriately at the consultative evaluation” can suddenly equate to mean he can understand, remember, and carry out detailed but not complex instructions on a regular and continuing basis. He smiled? That’s all? No, of course not. What about the rest of the report? which states “examinee presented with irritability, depressed mood, flat affect, and exhibited paranoid delusions.” Oh – and was also oriented to time, place, and situation (almost forgot that one). Mysteriously – the part that actually sheds light on the claimant’s disability alludes the Govt. Uh oh claimant – you didn’t present foaming at the mouth or looking like a three-headed monster? Go be a janitor. Janitors are isolated employees so no worries if they believe the CIA is watching them. And this charade is further exacerbated by “medical experts” who have never laid eyes on the claimant before their hearing and who seem to only highlight the negative findings in psychiatric records and NOT the ones that actually explain the claimant’s disability. Here’s an excerpt from one of my most recent hearings with a medical expert and a judge:

    Medical expert: You want a toe? I can get you a toe, believe me. There are ways, Dude. You don’t want to know about it, believe me.

    Judge: Yeah, but Walter . . .

    Medical expert: Hell, I can get you a toe by 3 o’clock this afternoon . . . with nail polish. These [#@!%] amateurs . .

    Just kidding. That’s from the Big Lebowski. But some of the conversations at the hearings are THAT entertaining. Sometimes I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  3. Laura S.

    Once again, you have identified a huge disparity between fact and fiction. If it were so easy, people wouldn’t need lawyers. You can’t judge a book by its cover – people love to ignore this statement when it doesn’t pertain to them. Plus, there are some things disabled people will simply not disclose about themselves because they are just too embarrased. Sometimes I feel like I know my clients better than their own family members! Dear Uncle Ervin: Would you be able to recognize a severe hoarder at the grocery store? Hoarding is associated with anxiety-related disorders, which can be severely disabling. Social Security Disability is a complex program that is often underestimated by those with the least information about it.

    1. disabilitydunktank Post author

      Laura – Yes! What we as lawyers wind up knowing about our clients is very, very intimate really. Thank you so much for writing that.

      I have had friends approach me to represent them in a disability matter and I have always referred them to another attorney. I WANT my friends and family members to be able to retain their privacy, and their dignity. I want my loved ones to be able to present to me their public face and public self and reveal to me what they want to reveal to me about their mental and physical failings on their own terms.

      The disability process is so revealing that we wind up knowing a great deal of very embarrassing pieces of information about the person. Uncle Ervin is unlikely to know what the heck is going on.

      When I have had people tell me of folks they “know” are committing fraud, I usually put it back on them about reporting it, giving the information of how to do so, etc., and they usually hmm and haw and dial it back, realizing that they don’t know what the heck they’re talking about. But, spewing the rhetoric does its own damage.

      Thank you again for your support. I am finding that writing this stuff is hard because I’m afraid I’m just saying the same darn things over and over and over again.

  4. msmariposa37

    While Uncle Irvin’s letter seems far fetched, I have met people doing similar, if not quite such flagrant things. I mean no racial slur, but “disability” is the common term used by poor Blacks. For years I have wondered how some people get “disability” so easily while others who really qualify can’t. I do know that tips and how to’s are freely shared. I once listened while one Mom talked about teaching her kids to “act stupid” so she could get “disability” for them—and she did. Family member can get “paid”, as it is called for taking care of “disabled” relatives. I think it is probably through Medicaid. Doing away with Social Workers who actually make home visits adds to the problem.

    I have wondered for years what I can do. Thank you for the contact information. I will use it when I can and I will share it with others.

    1. disabilitydunktank Post author

      Your letter brings up lots of interesting points. Thank you for making them.

      I don’t know your background in the world of disability, how you are encountering people who are on disability, but when I hear someone say that some people get on disability “so easily,” I always think – really? Where? How? Because I do not see that at all. I am bringing these cases to court, and proving disability is NOT easy.

      If you look at a person who is receiving disability, and are not in a position to have read their medical records, psychiatric records, educational records perhaps reflecting serious cognitive dysfunction, it is easy to say, ‘wow, they got on so easily, there’s nothing wrong with them’ but seriously, in my experience, that is just not the case.

      ALSO, statistically it is harder for black people to be awarded disability benefits than it is for white people. This is certainly true in the data I have kept personally over the past 14 years. I have had many, many white people call me on the telephone seeking representation who will say, “I guess I’m just the wrong color to get disability.” Oh brother! That is not the case at all.

      If you really do think you are witnessing someone committing fraud, please do report it. It is important for the integrity of these important programs. Having said that, I have encountered numerous situations where the reporter of fraud realized that they had absolutely no Earthly idea what they were talking about.

      Thank you again for writing your thoughtful comment.

      1. msmariposa37

        As for who I am, I am a “strange pilgrim” who chooses to walk with poor and disadvantaged people—not in groups but those who come across my path. I do want I can to assist and, when needed, to motivate them.

        Since I have psychologist friends who are expert witnesses for Social Security, I know something about the rigors of the process. I don’t have a clue as to how some people work the system, Do I have “proof” that would stand up in court? Probably not. I can only say that I personally know more than one occurrence of it happening.

        1. disabilitydunktank Post author

          Hmmm … all I can say is that I have had many, many clients who from the outside looking in, I too would have thought they were “working the system,” but once I got down in the documentation … down to the information that did, in fact, “stand up in court,” they were not working the system at all. In fact, they were the type of person for whom this statute was intended. But, you cannot tell that from the outside looking in. Over the course of a decade and a half of doing this work … I saw it over and over again.


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